Blog 6 | The Marathon Way | Strategic Foundation

Roadmap to a High Performing, Growing Business

The wise man will always build his house on a rock… so that it can weather the storms of life!

It is no different in business. Only when a business has a solid strategic foundation, will it be able to compete and achieve its goals in a sustainable way. So what are the key components that support the core foundation of a business?


Marathon Foundation 2.1: Strategic Foundation

A strategic foundation consists of five ‘cornerstones’

Once a business idea has been crystalized by leadership, the journey of transforming the idea into a viable business commences. The ideal start is to formulate the strategic foundation.A solid and enduring strategic foundation should answer the following five key questions:

  • Why do we exist?
  • Who are we?
  • What do we do?
  • How do we behave?
  • How do we win?


There are two underlying principles that the leadership team needs to keep in mind when reflecting on these questions:

  1. A foundation hardly ever changes; and
  2. The foundation ultimately serves as a key force of continuity – it guides the planning, decisions and actions of the next generation of leaders.


Hence it is important to get the strategic foundation right – the first time. The answers must be authentic, simple and unambiguous. Never rush nor underestimate the process of formulating a strategic foundation. A well-crafted foundation is a competitive force in its own right as it aligns the hearts and minds of an entire organisation!


Unpacking the five ‘cornerstones’
  • Why do we exist? – it is all about the why; the main rationale behind the existence of the business.
    • It can never be to merely make money or create wealth.
    • There has to be a deeper purpose that will always serve as the “true north” of the business.
  • Who are we?what is our business all about?
    • We have to be clear about the type and nature of our business (i.e a manufacturer, producer, distributor, marketer, administrator, intermediary, agent or other appropriate description)
    • The market and industry need to understand where we fit into the value chain that we form a part of.
  • What do we do? – simply put, what “tasks” do we do for customers to enable the business to make money and earn their place in the market?
    • The ultimate offering (products or services) has to be easily understood and perceived to add value.
  • How do we behave? – the leadership has to agree on the core behaviour patterns that the business has to continuously display to earn the trust of the market.
    • These consistent behaviour patterns, to be acted out by everyone in the organisation, will ultimately play a significant role in building a credible brand and reputation in the marketplace.
  • How do we win? – what makes the business unique and competitive in the marketplace?
    • In academic terms, what is the competitive advantage of the business?
    • Generally there are not more than three of these pillars that underpin the competitive positioning of the business.


Digging deeper

In our experience, very few organisations have complete clarity on their respective strategic foundations.

As with all physical buildings, the foundation is always hidden! If it is not solid in all key areas, some ‘strategic cracks’ could start to appear – typically in either performance, sustainability or employee engagement levels.

If your strategic foundation is not clear or well-defined, let the Marathon team help you co-create the five cornerstones of your business.


Next blog

In our next blog we will explore the 2nd discipline of Marathon’s Strategy & Business Model foundation i.e. industry and competitive strategy. Let’s go… and let’s build high-performing, growing businesses with solid foundations.

For Enquiries

Marius Botha | +27 912 2900

Meaning before money

We believe that making meaning comes before making money. Since founding Marathon, we have therefore invested our time in under-resourced organisational projects where our skills make a meaningful difference. Projects where we are involved include:







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